10 Jun

sudden impact

On this date in 2002, Marcus Thames, a New York Yankees rookie, stepped to the plate in Yankee Stadium for his first big league at-bat and, on the first pitch he saw, blasted a home run off Randy Johnson, then pitching for Arizona. It was the first of 115 homers for Thames, a Louisville native and ex-East Central Community College star who had a nice MLB career. It’s a cool memory, for sure, but Thames no doubt has other things on his mind today, namely the five-game win streak by the Los Angeles Angels that has pushed their record to 35-30, within 6.5 games of first place in the American League West. Thames is in his first year as the Angels’ hitting coach, and he has had a positive impact. The Angels’ offense was a mess in 2022, despite the presence of Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani. They went 73-89 and finished 26th in the majors in on-base percentage, 25th in runs and first (as in worst) in strikeouts. Under Thames’ direction, their OBP (.333) as well as batting average (.256) are up, and they are averaging more runs per game (4.8) and fewer strikeouts (8.7). Thames, widely regarded as a good coach, was the victim of staff purges by the Yankees and Miami the last two years. He quickly found work with Phil Nevin’s Angels and promised an “aggressive in the zone” approach. It appears to be working, much like it did for him on that memorable first AB 21 years ago. … Things are not going so well for Buck Showalter’s New York Mets, who have lost seven in a row and tumbled to 30-34, 9.5 games out in the National League East. They’ve also lost slugger Pete Alonso to the injured list. Showalter, the ex-Mississippi State star in his second season as manager of the Mets, is already rumored to be on the hot seat despite winning manager of the year honors with a playoff team in 2022. He said he remained proud of his current club after they blew late leads and lost three times to the archenemy Atlanta Braves. They then lost to the low-budget Pittsburgh Pirates 14-7 on Friday. (Ke’Bryan Hayes — son of Hattiesburg native Charlie — went 5-for-5 with four RBIs for the Bucs, who are 33-29.) The Mets have the largest payroll in baseball; owner Steve Cohen can’t be happy with what has happened this season.

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